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Harrow-on-the-Hill (St. Mary)

HARROW-ON-THE-HILL (St. Mary), a parish, and formerly a market-town, in the union of Hendon, hundred of Gore, county of Middlesex, 9 miles (N. W. by W.) from London; containing, with the hamlets of Alperton, Greenhill, Kenton, Preston, Roxeth, Sudbury, and Wembley, 4627 inhabitants, of whom 1031 are in the hamlet of Harrow-Weald. This place is chiefly distinguished on account of its Free Grammar School, instituted in the reign of Elizabeth, in 1571, and which ranks among the most celebrated classical schools in England. The founder was John Lyon, a native of the neighbouring hamlet of Preston, who, in 1590, drew up statutes for the school, in which, among various regulations, he directed that the pupils should be instructed in archery; and it was customary, until about the middle of the last century, for the scholars to hold a festival on the 4th of August, when they shot at a mark for a silver arrow. This usage having been abolished, public speeches are now delivered on the first Wednesdays in June and July. The school is free for all boys belonging to the parish of Harrow, but very few avail themselves of the privilege: the number of boys not on the foundation is usually between two and three hundred, and they enjoy all the privileges attached to the institution. Two exhibitioners from the school are admitted at Cambridge, and two at Oxford, with pensions allotted by the founder, who directed that £20 per annum should be divided among them, but they now receive £20 per annum each for eight years. The governors not long since instituted two annual scholarships, with pensions of £52. 10., for four years at either of the universities; and certain additional scholarships were lately founded by the liberality of Joseph Neeld, Esq., M.P., one of the governors. There are also four exhibitions, of £50 a year each, to Caius College, Cambridge; for these the school is indebted to the late J. Sayer, Esq. Several prizes, likewise, have been instituted: a gold medal is proposed yearly by Sir Robert Peel, one of the distinguished men whom the school has produced; and a prize, the proceeds of the scholarship which he won at Harrow, has been founded by A. J. Beresford Hope, Esq., son of Viscountess Beresford. R. Gregory, Esq., F.R.S., has bequeathed to the library 140 volumes of the Roman classics, an annual gold medal, value 10 guineas, and £100 per annum for ever for the foundation of an exhibition to either of the universities, for a boy educated in the school. The rents of the estates given for the support of the institution by John Lyon, amounted, in 1795, to £669 per annum, which were expended by the governors in paying salaries and exhibitions, educating poor children, relieving decayed housekeepers, repairing roads, &c., agreeably to the directions of the donor; at present the income is much more considerable, part of the estates having been let on building leases. The house formerly occupied by the head master was destroyed by fire in October, 1838, and a new one has been erected, after a design by Mr. Decimus Burton. The school building was repaired and much enlarged by munificent donations of former alumni of Harrow, during the mastership of the Rev. Chancellor Butler, D.D.; the chapel for the use of the school, erected by the same means, was consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, on the 24th of September, 1838.

The town forms a neat street, and occupies a lofty hill, commanding fine views. A charter was granted by Henry III. for a market on Monday, and an annual fair; the former has been discontinued, but a fair is still held on the first Monday in August. The parish comprises 9604a. 2r. 32p.: the soil is fertile, and nearly three-fourths of the land are in pasture; the surrounding scenery, which is richly diversified, abounds with interesting objects. The London and Birmingham railway passes through the parish, and rather more than a mile to the north of the church is a station on the line. The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £33. 4. 2.; net income, £627; patron, Lord Northwick; appropriators, the Dean and Canons of Christ-Church, Oxford. The tithes were commuted for land and cornrents in 1803. The church is a spacious structure, with a tower and lofty spire at the west end: the pillars between the nave and the aisles, and a part of the tower, where is a curious Norman doorway, probably formed portions of a church recorded to have been founded by Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, in the reign of William I.; but the remainder of the edifice appears to have been built in the latter part of the 14th century. In this church was interred the celebrated poet and physician, Sir Samuel Garth. There is a district chapel at Harrow-Weald, erected by subscription, and in the Vicar's gift; and at Wembley is a chapel dedicated to St. John, in the patronage of the Misses Copland. The Baptists and Wesleyans have places of worship; and national schools are supported. At the extremity of the parish, towards Stanmore, was a priory called Benethly or Bentley, the site of which forms part of the estate of the Marquess of Abercorn, who has near it a splendid and richly furnished mansion, styled Bentley Priory. The learned Dr. Parr was born at Harrow, where his father practised as an apothecary; and the Hon. W. R. Spencer, an accomplished scholar, who died in 1834, was interred in the church.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.